What on earth is the Holy Spirit doing Pt 1? (Apr 2020)

Three reflections on Romans 8
1. Romans 7:21-8:13
2: Romans 8:14-17
3. Romans 8:18-39

Romans 7:21-8:13

My friend, Don Gray, was talking to a group of people who didn’t like him referring to sin, even though it’s often mentioned in the Bible. They didn’t see themselves as sinners. Well, not too bad, anyway. Ok they didn’t always do the right thing but they could sin or not whenever they pleased. 

Don disagreed, pointing out that Jesus said that if you sin at all then you are a slave to sin and cannot stop whether you want to or not (John 8:34). He made them an offer: he would give $20 to anyone who could refrain from sinning for a whole 5 minutes. 

For example, they might try sitting and reading the Bible for 5 minutes, sit and pray for 5 minutes, listen to hymns for 5 minutes, contemplate the beauty of creation for 5 minutes, even sleep for 5 minutes. 

Then, tell me how you managed not to sin for a whole 5 minutes. And answer this question: “why did you do it?”

We are complex beings and try as we might, we can never quite reach perfection. 

After thinking about this problem, Paul summarised his conclusion and he’s not the only one who knows this experience. Near the end of chapter 7 of his letter to the Roman Christians he shares something we all know: For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

There is something wrong with us that needs fixing, something we cannot fix ourselves but there is someone who can – and he knew who that is: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

He goes on to explain how this works and we read it in Romans chapter 8:

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.

God sent Jesus, his son, to be with us and when he came he came as a human, just like us, “in the likeness of sinful flesh”. In his human body Jesus experienced life as we do. He was tempted in every way just as we are. But unlike us he did not sin. He was a perfect human. He was a human in every way just as God meant humans to be; just as God means us to be.

In every way, Jesus met all God’s requirements. He kept every law, every command, every desire, every wish of his Father God. After living a perfect life, a sinless life, he did as God asked him to and submitted himself into the hands of evil men who beat him, scorned him and crucified him. And so, the sinless man who deserved no penalty, Jesus submitted to death in our place, taking the penalty, blame and power of our sin.

We can’t satisfy God’s requirements, but Jesus did.

As we recognise what God has done in Jesus, what Jesus has done for us, what Jesus has done in our place, as we accept Jesus as our Saviour and submit to living for him, making him our Lord, there is a consequence for this. Now God accepts that Jesus took the blame for our sin, sees our sin on Jesus but sees us as being as righteous, sinless and acceptable as Jesus ever was.

That is why when we come before God now and on the day of judgement, there is no condemnation.

Near the end of this chapter we read, 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who then is the one who condemns? No-one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

If God says you are not condemned who can argue with Him? If Jesus, at God’s right hand, says to God, “I’ve taken the blame for him – he’s good enough for me” or “she loved me and followed me – I love her still”, they were both born again into the life of my Spirit, there is no condemnation for them!

That, of course, is to come. 

The Bible tells us there are 2 kinds of people: the dead and the alive, and describes them in Romans 7:5-8

5Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Those the Bible describes as dead – spiritually and eternally, not physically – set their thinking and their actions to the desires and inclinations common to human beings, continually failing to live up to God’s standards. Their minds are locked, filled with a need to satisfy those urges to satisfy what are described as “desires of the flesh”. Whether they know it or not, they are hostile to God. Friendship with God is something they cannot know.

They are spiritually dead and will go on into eternity dead, separated from life in all its forms, life with other people, family, friends and, of course, separated from God himself who is light and life itself.

The alive have their minds and hence their actions set according to what Jesus wants, listening to and led by his Spirit, wit life and peace right through into eternity.

Romans 8:9 describes the difference.

9You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.

This is a statement that raises a question. “Do you have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ?” Do you know Jesus is your Saviour and Lord? If you do, the Bible goes on with wonderful news.

9You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

Jesus told his disciples, which means he told us, that after his death, resurrection and when he left to take up his throne beside God the Father, he would send his Holy Spirit to be with us, Bodily Christ is not here on earth with us but his Spirit is to guide us and teach us, to live as Christ himself is in us. That is what on earth the Holy Spirit is doing.

Our bodies are subject to age, disease, damage and inevitably, death, but the Holy Spirit within and with us brings life to our spirits and to our minds and to our bodies. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking of spiritual matters as being airy-fairy or of wishful thinking. Don’t make the mistake of thinking in terms of things that are unreal or ghostly. Romans 8:11 destroys that thinking.

11And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Here we are given a statement that is almost overwhelming. It takes your breath away! You need time to let it sink in. Then, when the truth of it seeps through into your thinking, your awareness, your life, the extraordinary relationship with God the Father because of God the Son and through God the Holy Spirit fills you with awe, thankfulness, peace, joy, praise and worship.

11And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

We are talking about the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of God, the person of God almighty, the Spirit who moved across the unformed universe and brought it into creation. He is the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead! He is not only real and personal he is powerful! We are talking of real might, real power, almighty power. The only one with power who can give physical life to a dead person.

We are talking about the Spirit of Christ who is living in you! Who is with you at all times and in all circumstances! Think about it – the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is also giving life to you – now! Today! Here! 

Romans 8:12-13 gives us a conclusion and an obligation.

12Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation – but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Therefore, because Christ has died for you, because he has sent his Holy Spirit to live in and with you there is only one sensible response we can make. More than that, it is an obligation to pay attention to the Spirit within us, to seek the Spirit’s presence and guidance. Forsaking all those destructive tendencies that belong to the natural inclinations our fleshly nature seeks, regarding them as dead, and live instead governed by the Holy Spirit.

We can learn how to do this. Indeed I think we know how to do this. Refresh your love and submission to Jesus as Saviour and Lord; renew your commitment to him, tell him once again you love him. Ask at all times for his Holy Spirit to act in your thinking and in your life. Let him guide you through persistent, consistent Bible reading. Let him inspire you as you worship God the Father and God the Son. Pray continuously and the Spirit of Jesus will bring you his enabling power, his presence and comfort.